Yusra Mardini was born in Syria but she had to flee from her war-torn home country to search for a better life.
Before, being in the Olympic Games seemed fiction as the teenager had to face the struggles of her 25 days exodus from Damascus, Syria to Germany.
In the midst of her journey, Mardini and her elder sister were able to secure a spot on a small dinghy to cross the Mediterranean to Greece in exchange for a huge sum of money. It wasn’t the best but it was their only choice for them to proceed to what they hope is a better life.
The small boat that was meant to accommodate 6 passengers left Turkey with 20 occupants. Thirty minutes into the ride, the motor of their boat started to give way and their dinghy was on the verge of capsizing, according to Independent UK.
Fortunate enough, the 18-year old Mardini is the middle child of three daughters to a swim coach.
Without any other option, Mardini and her sister jumped into the waters and started swimming for their lives. They managed to pull their boat to Lesbos and eventually made their way to Germany — their final destination.
“I had one hand with the rope attached to the boat as I moved my two legs and one arm. It was three and half hours in cold water. Your body is almost like … done. I don’t know if I can describe that.”
“It was really hard, for everyone, and I don’t blame anyone if they cried. But sometimes you just have to move on.”
Mardini hated the open waters ever since then, but even so, she knew that at that moment that it was swimming that kept her alive. Respect!
“I remember that without swimming I would never be alive maybe because of the story of this boat. It’s a positive memory for me.”
Although given a chance to start life anew, things weren’t easy for Mardini and her sister. They spotted a German restaurant but the restaurant wouldn’t take them fearing that they would rob them.
However, things turned around for Mardini when she was referred to join a swimming club known as Wasserfreunde Spandau 04.
Soon, coach Sven Spannerkrebs decided to take Mardini under his wing with plans to train her for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. But as God works in mysterious ways, Mardini had been one in ten selected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to join the Refugee Olympic Athletes Team (ROT) in the Rio Games this year.
Thus far, Mardini had won a 100m butterfly heat against four other women. Despite the win, she didn’t qualify for semi-finals. But that’s ok, Mardini has already won the hearts of the people.
Being a refugee herself, Mardini sets out to give an insight of living as one.
“A lot of people think refugees have no home, that they had nothing at all. Sometimes when I have my iPhone they are like, ‘you know iPhone, oh my God’ – but I’m like, ‘of course’. They think we live in some desert. No, we have everything like you,” she said.
“I want everyone to think refugees are normal people who had their homelands and lost them not because they wanted to run away and be refugees, but because they have dreams in their lives and they had to go.”
Her story has resonated to people worldwide and she has become an inspiration to many. Mardini is living proof that you yourself determines where you end up, no matter how tough a family or situation you’re born into. To think, most of us who are fortunate enough suffer from ‘First World Problems’ all day. Guess we should really start to count our blessings.
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